|Fly Away Home|
|Written by Noah Fleming|
|Friday, 10 April 2009|
"Fly Away Home" doesn't quite stand the test of time. However, it is still a solid film that gives us tragedy and hope.
Anna Paquin stars as Amy Alden, a 13 year-old girl that survives a tragic car accident in which her mother is killed. Her estranged father, Thomas (Jeff Daniels) comes to her bedside to take her home to Canada from her home in New Zealand. She is beside herself in her new farm house. Her father has never been around and he struggles to reconnect with his daughter.
Amy remains distant, never wanting to go to school and keeping quiet for the most part. One day, during her solitary time in the adjacent woods, she rescues a dozen wild geese eggs from the destroyed wetlands. She sets them up in the barn, having a bunch of innate knowledge about how to take care of the eggs. It only takes until the very next day fro the eggs to hatch.
Thomas finds her in the barn with the newly hatched geese. The duo takes the geese in. Thomas recruits the local wildlife preserve officer for assistance. He turns out to be the villain of the story, dedicated to clipping the wings of the wild geese.
Amy spends her time raising the geese. Since she is the first life that the geese saw once hatched, they took her as their mother. She feeds them and exercises them. Meanwhile, Thomas works on a flying device that could lead the wild geese to the south.
Thomas and Amy soon realize that the geese will not follow Thomas, but will follow Amy. A second machine is built for her to lead the geese to the wetlands in North Carolina. Time is against them as there are developers waiting to destroy the wetlands. The geese must land there before time expires. Thomas and Amy's journey south is an inspirational one.
Jeff Daniels and Dana Delany give good performances as well. The star of the film is the cinematography. In fact, it was nominated for best cinematography in 1996. The Canadian landscape is beautiful and the flying shots are well orchestrated.
Sadly, the video quality of this Blu-ray does not beautifully represent the cinematography. The age of the film is present in the Blu-ray transfer. There is an enormous amount of film grain present from the beginning. This is not entirely distracting, but wears thin on some scenes. Probably the most annoying aspect of the video quality is the massive amount of vertical banding in the blue sky. The black levels and shadow delineation are decent but not the strongest I have seen with films of the same age. The details are much better than the standard DVD. However, many of the shots are soft, mainly due to the original print. It seems that scratches and blemishes have been smeared out. Colors and fleshtones are accurate. The colors of the autumn leaves are beautiful. Fleshtones are drained, but are accurate to the overcast skies of Canada.
The audio quality is solid, but there isn't much in the original sound design to make this soundtrack stand out. The Blu-ray comes with a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track. I was a little worried at the start as the beautiful, and utterly depressing song by Mary Chapin Carpenter sounding like a data compressed MP3. It sounded much fuller come its replay at the end of the film. The dialogue is clear and clean. The frequency response is good until it comes to low frequencies. The LFE channel is absent from this mix. Of course, the sound design doesn't permit much to happen in the LFE channel. Still, that extra bit of warmth was missing. There are really no dynamics to the original sound design either. Overall, there isn't much of an upgrade in this audio track over the original standard Dolby Digital version. Still, the lossless resolution track is much cleaner than the Dolby Digital track.
This Blu-ray contains the original special features present on the standard DVD. The Blu-ray is enhanced with BD-Live functionality for feature additional special features. First, there is a director and cinematographer audio commentary. "Operation Migration: Birds of a Feather" is a featurette on the wild geese. This is featurette is supplemented by the extensive "Ultra Geese Documentary." Lastly there is the "HBO Making of: Leading the Flock" featurette. The disc also includes some previews.
"Fly Away Home" is a touching story, but not one that can be watched over and over again. The video quality is average for older films, but I still believe that a better job good have been done. The audio quality is true to the original sound design, but not much more than solid dialogue. This one is worth a look.